Kathryn Smith- Clinical Psychologist
With Mother’s Day fast approaching it can be a timely reminder to speak about a topic which is not often spoken about. We are bombarded with ads on TV depicting how wonderful motherhood is, and whilst it is for many, for some it is a daily struggle.
Recently I was asked to speak at a Perinatal Mental Health Forum. The main topic of focus was Postnatal Depression and how can we help these women deal with this problem and why are they continuing to fall between the cracks?
It is estimated that 1 in 7 women will experience post-natal depression and 1 in 10 men will also experience this. This is not the same as the “Baby Blues” typically experienced within the first week following birth but quickly resolving. This consists of depressed mood, loss of appetite, exhaustion, poor sleep, often poor attachment to the baby and sometime suicidal and homicidal ideas. Tragically, some of these ideas are acted on if the symptoms are so severe and the parent cannot see any other way out.
Most that experience post-natal depression, often feel guilty for having these symptoms and are too scared to reach out due to the fear of perhaps losing their baby. They also feel like such a failure as “everyone else” seems to be coping and they are constantly reminded of this at Mother’s groups and Facebook posts. They are not filled with a sense of wonderment that is portrayed in the media and feel everyday as a constant struggle with no enjoyment.
Prevention of this is often better than a cure. A topic of discussion at the forum was how do we assist couples with transitioning into parenthood and really prepare them for the relentless demands a new baby will bring? Also when they are beginning to struggle how do they reach out and who do they talk to?
For any parent that is relating to this, it is important to realise that you are not alone and this is not because you are inadequate. It is important to begin a conversation with someone about how you have actually been feeling and to be brutally honest. This can be with another family member, friend or even your GP. It is important to ask for help, even if they are not the person to do it. There are also some organisations that have phone support and resources, they can also direct you to an appropriate service provider. PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) is one such organisations that offers such support. If depression is left too late, it can have dire consequences on a relationship and the family functioning.
If we begin to speak about Perinatal Depression more, and reach out more, we may be successful in building more programs and gathering more support for this often untreated and debilitating condition. Instead of “Mum’s the Word’, let’s spread the word and make this everyone’s business.
For more information on PANDA visit www.panda.org.au
Clinical Psychologist Kathryn Smith works at Brisbane based practice, Psychology Consultants, her bio can be viewed at www.psychologyconsultants.com.au